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Bucks' Larry Sanders, out 7 games mostly for personal reasons, on bench in street clothes

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MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Bucks welcomed Larry Sanders back on Tuesday, even if he was in street clothes and sitting on the end of the bench.

The 6-foot-11 center had missed the last seven games, including Tuesday's loss against the Phoenix Suns, 102-96. He hasn't suited up since the Bucks' home game against Charlotte on Dec. 23.

The team had not said much about his absence other than it was for personal reasons. That fueled speculation about what's really wrong and that he might even be done with basketball.

"It feels great to be around the guys again," Sanders said after his first public appearance with the team in two weeks. "There is no timetable for my return."

Sanders was vague, but said he was making progress, getting to the root of his issues and correcting them.

"Without these things being corrected, I don't think basketball will be something I can even do," he said.

He said that speculation he might walk off the court for good simply was false.

"But, what is true," he said, "is that I'm in the process of working things out now to do as best for my psyche and my physical health going forward. There's a lot of evaluating going on. There's a lot of inside talk just to put myself in the best place for my health right now."

Coming into the game with the Suns, the Bucks were 4-2 without Sanders.

"We want Larry to get back as soon as possible. It makes us a better team," Kidd said. "Now, we need to go through the process of getting him back into the swing of things."

Sanders is in the first year of a four-year, $44 million contract extension. He started 26 of 27 games and was averaging 7.3 points and 6.1 rebounds.

"We're going to support him," Bucks guard Khris Middleton said. "He's one of our teammates. He's our brother. We're always going to be there no matter what. He's a big part of our team."

The Bucks expected Sanders to rebound from last year's problem-plagued season

He missed 25 games after ripping a ligament in his right thumb during a bar fight. Then surgery to repair an orbital contusion cost him another 27 games after he took an inadvertent elbow from Houston's James Harden. Sanders spent the final five games of the season suspended by the NBA for marijuana use.

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